Review: The Witcher: Blood Origin is a chaotic, cringeworthy mess

The Witcher: Blood Origin
The Witcher: Blood Origin /
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It’s time to head back to the Continent: Netflix’s new live-action spinoff of The Witcher has arrived! The Witcher: Blood Origin is set 1,200 years before the adventures of Geralt of Rivia, long before monsters or humans had ever set foot on the Continent. Whether you stan anything Witcher and are excited for Blood Origin or you feel like it’s the Christmas present no one asked for, we’re here to talk about each episode of the show and point out the things you might have missed.

Obligatory warning that there will be SPOILERS for The Witcher: Blood Origin beyond this point.

The Witcher: Blood Origin
The Witcher: Blood Origin /

The Witcher: Blood Origin Episode 1: “Of Ballads, Brawlers, and Bloodied Blades”

The Witcher: Blood Origin begins with a long upside-down shot of a battle that clues us in to one very important aspect of this show: it abides by the rule of cool. Whether you think this shot is cool or not, someone on the production team did, so it’s happening whether it makes sense or not.

That said, the opening scene of the series is actually one of its best, as we catch up with Jaskier (Joey Batey) in the middle of a nighttime battle in a forest. As an axe swings straight for his face, everything around him freezes. A mysterious doppelgänger appears that looks exactly like Jaskier, but is clearly some otherworldly being.

We’re then introduction to the narrator of Blood Origin, SeanchaÍ (Minnie Driver). Despite the fact that Blood Origin is about a previous era of The Witcher history, this particular segment clues is in on a few things about what’s happening in the mothership show between seasons 2 and 3. This battle came about because the Scoia’tael (elven guerrilla fighters) attacked a Temerian camp that had captured Jaskier, who was smuggling elves out of Oxenfurt during season 2. SeanchaÍ is impressed with Jaskier’s efforts and wants to tell a story that will inspire the Scoia’tael to survive the challenges ahead. She settles on one about how seven warriors united to overthrow an “unstoppable empire.” Her story also involves the creation of the first witcher.

Seanchai (Minnie Driver) in The Witcher: Blood Origin. Image courtesy Kevin Baker/Netflix. © 2022 Netflix, Inc.
Seanchai (Minnie Driver) in The Witcher: Blood Origin. Image courtesy Kevin Baker/Netflix. © 2022 Netflix, Inc. /

Driver and Batey are both pretty solid in this scene. And there are some great lines, such as when Jaskier ruminates on how much it will piss off Geralt to learn that the first witcher was in fact a “badass elven warrior.”

However, the presentation here is goofy. Jaskier decries SeanchaÍ’s story as fairly standard until she gives him more details about it and win him over, which almost feels like Netflix trying to convince viewers that this won’t be as boring a show as they expect. Unfortunately, The Witcher: Blood Origin is pretty much exactly as generic as it seems.

To drive that point home, once Driver begins narrating, we get an artsy opening credits-style montage that introduces us to each of the seven warriors who will eventually come together to fight the ancient elven empire. I won’t list their names here; half of them we won’t meet until deep into Episode 2. despite only running four episodes, The Witcher: Blood Origin has an overlarge cast to keep track of. This opening is but the first of many cringe-worthy moments to come.

Éile (Sophia Brown) in The Witcher: Blood Origin. Image courtesy Susie Allnutt/Netflix. © 2022 Netflix, Inc.
Éile (Sophia Brown) in The Witcher: Blood Origin. Image courtesy Susie Allnutt/Netflix. © 2022 Netflix, Inc. /

The Lark sings a song, Fjall Stoneheart bangs his way out of a job

Following the first narration segment from Driver, we’re into the show proper. Blood Origin’s story-within-a-story begins by acquainting us with the two main heroes of the tale: Éile (Sophia Brown) and Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain). When we begin, they’re in different parts of the map.

First we get to know Éile, a warrior who turned her back on the way of the blade to become a wandering bard who goes by the name of the Lark. She’s set up shop in a small village to play her tunes for the local tavern patrons, but things get complicated when one of them gets handsy with Ithlinne (Ella Schrey-Yeats), a young serving girl. Éile dispatches the bad guys, chugs an ale, and gets back to singing while the crowd cheers their approval.

Schrey-Yeats does a good job as Ithlinne, but I don’t love that Blood Origin portrays this extremely important figure in The Witcher mythos as basically a carbon copy of Ciri, especially considering that the two aren’t even related. Ithlinne is a famous elven prophetess who has never before appeared onscreen, and it feels like the show should do more with her.

Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain) in The Witcher: Blood Origin. Image courtesy Lilja Jonsdottir/Netflix. © 2022 Netflix, Inc.
Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain) in The Witcher: Blood Origin. Image courtesy Lilja Jonsdottir/Netflix. © 2022 Netflix, Inc. /

Fjall, meanwhile, is the fiercest warrior of Dog Clan, a group of elves serving as the personal guards to Prince Alvitir (The Last Kingdom’s Mark Rowley). There’s a bit of unrest in Alvitir’s capital city, which leads to an assassination attempt which Fjall and his cohorts swiftly thwart.

But then, just when it seems everything is going fine, we learn that Fjall and Princess Merwyn (Mirren Mack) have a history. They consummate their forbidden love only to be discovered by Fjall’s father and sister, both of whom are also Dog Clan warriors.

Though sleeping with the princess is an offense punishable by death, Fjall is instead banished from the kingdom and clan to keep the scandal quiet. O’Fuarain recalls Cavill’s Geralt just a bit in how he constantly grunts and swears, and you know what? It works just fine.

The Witcher: Blood Origin has decent fight scenes

Fjall’s off-screen misadventures lead him the very same village where Éile is performing, at least until the tavern patron she roughed up rats her out to the town guards. She’s tossed in jail and Fjall is her cellmate.

While Blood Origin has plenty of rough spots, the chemistry between Brown and O’Fuarain works. The two are a lot of fun to watch as they shoot insults back and forth, since their respective clans are sworn enemies.

Of course, neither stays in the cage all that long. Fjall is sprung by a former comrade who wants him to return and help defend the prince and princess at a peace summit where Merwyn will be married to the King of Pryshia. The elven warrior declines, opting instead to go to a brothel only to discover that Éile had stolen his last bit of silver.

Éile is freed by her sister Niamh, who convinces Éile to go with her to the very same peace summit. Suddenly, the pair are ambushed, Niamh is killed, and Éile is forced to take up her knives and go back to being a warrior.

The following fight scene emphasizes what may be Blood Origin’s single greatest strength: the choreography in its action scenes is often pretty good. Éile’s fight with the assassins is fantastic and only gets better when Fjall comes to her aid. The two make a temporary alliance, realizing that something is amiss at the peace summit and resolving to head there to ensure their clans’ safety. Alas, they never quite make it to the palace.

The Witcher: Blood Origin
The Witcher: Blood Origin /

Nothing like a coup to launch a new Golden Empire

The other big plot thread in the premiere episode revolves around Princess Merwyn, Chief Sage Balor (Lenny Henry), and Captain Eredin (Jacob Collins-Levy). That last name should sound familiar to any fan of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, since Eredin is the leader of the Wild Hunt and that game’s primary villain. He also features in The Witcher novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, albeit in a smaller role than he played in the game.

You might think that Blood Origin will build up the character into the maniacal villain he will one day become, but the show never really does anything with him. Blood Origin sidesteps as much of the established Witcher lore as it can in favor of just making up a totally random story that only tangentially ties into anything from Sapkowski’s books.

But I digress. Much of the palace plotline centers on Fjall’s former lover Princess Merwyn, who is told in the wake of her dalliance with the disgraced warrior that she will have to marry the ruler of the neighboring elven kingdom of Pryshia to secure a new alliance for her people. Merwyn is visibly distraught by this news, since she dreams of taking a more active hand in her kingdom’s governorship, on her own terms.

Merwyn’s push and pull is interesting, especially in the leadup to the peace summit coup. While she appears to go along with everything, there are hints that she’s holding out for a different path to appear before her. We aren’t privy to how it all comes together, but by the time the King of Pryshia and various other parties — including both Fjall and Éile’s respective clans — have gathered for the betrothal, Merwyn’s plans are already underway.

Merwyn excuses herself, slitting the throat of her escort while Captain Eredin bars the doors with the elven leaders of three different clans inside. Then a giant flying monster swoops in and zaps them all to dust. Merwyn is now Empress of a new Golden Empire. But in reality, it is Chief Sage Balor — the one who controls the monster — who holds the power.

The visual effects for “Balor’s beast” leave a lot to be desired, as do the effects when he steps through a monolith portal. In general, Blood Origin’s visual effects look like straight out of a ’90s Syfy Chanel Original. They’re a significant step back from The Witcher season 2, and probably even from the show’s first season.

Scian (Michelle Yeoh) in The Witcher: Blood Origin. Image courtesy Lilja Jonsdottir/Netflix. © 2022 Netflix, Inc.
Scian (Michelle Yeoh) in The Witcher: Blood Origin. Image courtesy Lilja Jonsdottir/Netflix. © 2022 Netflix, Inc. /

ScÍan burns the house down

News spreads fast about Merwyn’s Golden Empire. Fjall and Éile learn of it while on the road to Xin’trea, as Golden Empire guards are now roving about causing problems in smaller villages.

After working through some shock over Merwyn’s coup, the pair set off to find Éile’s former swordmaster in hopes that she’ll be able to help them assassinate the Empress and overthrow the empire. Enter Michelle Yeoh, who plays a lone warrior who’s the last surviving member of the Ghost Tribe, legendary sword elves mostly wiped out in days long gone.

ScÍan is reluctant to help until Fjall reveals he knows a secret way into the palace. And of course she tests the skills of Fjall and Éile in a cool fight scene. Yeoh is fantastic so it’s easy to enjoy her scenes. Her makeup also deserves a special nod; it’s mesmerizingly cool.

Ultimately, the three set off on their quest and we cut to credits. As they do, they burn ScÍan’s house down behind them, I guess because she knows she’s not coming back? Remember, Blood Origin abides by rule of cool (to someone), and in this instance that means having our heroes walk away from a burning tent!

The Witcher: Bullet Point Origin

  • In the opening sequence Jaskier finds a new lute, mysteriously left for him by SeanchaÍ. His own lute was smashed during The Witcher season 2.
  • We very briefly meet Syndril (Zach Wyatt), who was being held captive to help Balor open rifts to other worlds. Still can’t get over the fact that he’s wearing a literal white tank top.
  • The costuming and sets are wildly inconsistent. Some are gorgeous, others are outrageously bad.
  • The Dog Clan guard whose throat Merwyn slits was Fjall’s sister Ket.
  • This episode features our first glimpse of Huw Novelli as Brother Death. He’s in the tavern where Fjall and Éile overhear the news about Balor’s coup and seems to be the only one who notices them.
  • ScÍan was banished from the Raven Clan for introducing Éile to music, which obviously didn’t go over well once she abandoned fighting to become a bard.
  • The bit where Scían saves Éile from getting her head accidentally chopped off by Fjall’s axe was a very cool touch.


“Of Ballads, Brawlers, and Bloodied Blades” kicks off The Witcher: Blood Origin on a relative high note. This is easily the most coherent episode of the season, mostly becomes it hones in so heavily on Fjall and Éile. Cameos by Jaskier and Minnie Driver’s SeanchaÍ also add spice to the gumbo. It’s the longest episode of the show and a lot happens in it; sometimes it’s conveyed clearly, at other times you just have to kind of shrug and go along with it.

Episode grade: C